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LIVE AID 1985: How it all happened

Live Aid from Wembley Stadium

Live Aid

It was described as 'The Day Rock and Roll Changed the World' but how did that unforgettable day on 13 July 1985 come about.


Band Aid...
It all started when Bob Geldof, who had seen Michael Buerk's news reports in 1984 about the appalling famine in Africa, felt he had to do something to stop the suffering. He and Midge Ure of Ultravox got together and wrote the song 'Do They Know It's Christmas' to raise money for the crisis. They then enlisted a host of other stars to record the song under the name of Band Aid. Released on 7 December 1984, the single became the UK's biggest selling single of the time and raised £8m.

An idea of a concert...
Following the success of Band Aid, Bob Geldof visited Ethiopia to oversee the distribution of aid and realised that if the Band Aid organisation owned its own fleet of trucks to transport much-needed supplies, they would be in a better position to have a more direct impact on the famine. So the idea of a concert was born, and in just 10 weeks the project of Live Aid was put together - and that was in the days before E-mail and mobile phones!

The greatest live show ever...
Billed as 'The Global Jukebox' and hosted by Britain and the USA, Live Aid became the biggest live rock event ever, featuring an amazing line-up of rock stars. Spanning two continents, the concerts were broadcast direct from Wembley Stadium in London and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. There were also contributions from countries including Japan, Australia, Holland, Yugoslavia, Russia and Germany . The whole event featured 16 hours of live music and was watched by over 1.5 billion people worldwide. The final amount raised exceeded all hopes and totalled over £110m.

That legendary day...
The concert began at midday in London with a fanfare for Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Then Status Quo took to the stage to kick off the event with 'Rocking All Over The World'. Each band was given 17 minutes for their set and they performed for free. Phil Collins even managed to perform at both concerts. After playing 'Against All Odds' and 'In The Air Tonight', plus a duet with Sting, at Wembley he jetted across the Atlantic by Concorde to play the same songs in Philadelphia later the same day.

As well as the rock stars who performed there were many other artists and personalities involved who introduced the artists. They included Griff Rhys-Jones, Mel Smith, Billy Connolly, Jools Holland, Lenny Henry, Tracey Ullman, Paula Yates, Jack Nicholson, Chevy Chase, Bette Midler, John Hurt and many more.

The London finale took place just before 10pm while the Philadelphia concert continued until 4am (British time). It was truly 'the day rock and roll changed the world', but in spite of these efforts 1.2m people starved to death in Africa during the 1984-85 famine.

Artists who performed at Wembley (in order of appearance):

  • Status Quo
  • Style Council
  • Boomtown Rats
  • Adam Ant
  • Ultravox
  • Spandau Ballet
  • Elvis Costello
  • Nik Kershaw
  • Sade
  • Sting
  • Phil Collins (also with Sting)
  • Howard Jones
  • Bryan Ferry
  • Paul Young (also with Alison Moyet)
  • U2
  • Dire Straits (also with Sting)
  • Queen
  • David Bowie
  • The Who
  • Elton John (also with Kiki Dee and Wham)
  • Freddie Mercury with Brian May
  • Paul McCartney

Artists who performed in Philadelphia (in order of appearance):

  • Bernard Watson
  • Joan Baez
  • The Hooters
  • The Four Tops
  • Billy Ocean
  • Black Sabbath
  • Run DMC
  • Rick Springfield
  • REO Speedwagon
  • Crosby, Stills and Nash
  • Judas Priest
  • Bryan Adams
  • Beach Boys
  • George Thorogood & the Destroyers (also with Bo Diddley & Albert Collins)
  • Simple Minds
  • The Pretenders
  • Santana (also with Pat Metheny)
  • Ashford & Simpson with Teddy Pendergrass
  • Madonna
  • Tom Petty
  • Kenny Loggins
  • The Cars
  • Neil Young
  • Power Station
  • Thompson Twins (also with Madonna)
  • Eric Clapton
  • Phil Collins
  • Robert Plant, Jimmy Page & John Paul Jones
  • Duran Duran
  • Patti LaBelle
  • Hall & Oates (also with Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin)
  • Mick Jagger (also with Tina Turner)
  • Bob Dylan, Keith Richards & Ron Wood


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